Thursday, January 19, 2012

An Open Letter to the Naysayers

My dad had a favorite expression, which I'm only going to minimally censor here. "Opinions are like a--holes; everybody's got one." The implication being, of course, keep yours to yourself because I've already got one. I can't tell you how many times a week this colorful turn of phrase pops into my mind as I progress through this pregnancy.

The truth is I often feel attacked, criticized and belittled about the choices I'm making for myself and my baby. And while that alone is hard, it is made more bitter because it seems the most biting comments come from well-meaning family and friends. Furthermore, despite the fact that Chuk and I have made every pregnancy-related decision together, he has not been subject to these types of remarks. Why do we subject mothers to a level of criticism and scrutiny that would never be tolerated in any other sphere of life?

This is where I plead my case that we, as a society, simply butt out and let parents, for better or worse, make their own decisions. I contend that these unsolicited opinions are rarely useful and mostly serve to alienate people and damage relationships.

You Can't Do That

"You'll never be able to give birth without drugs."
"Cloth diapers? Good luck with that because it's never going to happen."

We all have different capabilities. Maybe you can name all 50 state capitals and do computer coding. I can't, but I can do the quadratic equation and translate Camus from French to English. Just because natural child birth or cloth diapers or whatever didn't work out for you doesn't mean I can't do it.

When you act like parenting is a competition and you smack talk me, it hurts my feelings. Don't tell me what I can and can't do because you have no idea. I have no idea either, but I want to try. Just encourage me instead.

You're Reckless

"I'm just not the type of person who would risk my child's life to give birth outside of a hospital."
"You need bumpers or else the baby will hurt itself on the crib."

Trust me. I'm not going to do anything to endanger my child. Believe it or not, I have a vested interest in keeping this baby alive. I've done my research. You have either 1) not done your research and have no idea what you're talking about, 2) your information is out of date, or 3) are referring to something upon which there is divided expert opinion. In the case of one and two, I'm dismissing what you're saying out of hand. In the case of three, let's just agree to disagree. Look, you may let your toddler drink soda and watch TV. I've got opinions about that, but I'm keeping my mouth shut because I believe that as long as it's not illegal, parents have the right to make decisions based on what is right for their family.

Be Like Me

"We have the best sleep technique."
"You have to get this wipes warmer."

I'm not going to lie, your kid seems like (s)he's turning out ok, but this other kid I know is turning out ok too and its parents are doing things the exact opposite way you are. I interpret this to mean 1) all kids are different, and 2) the minutia probably doesn't matter.

I live in a tiny apartment. While I'm glad that giant gizmo you bought made your child happy, I am not neglecting my child if I choose not to buy it. Don't try to guilt me into a purchase. I will never believe that not having "hot item of the year" is going to turn my child into a juvenile delinquent in 15 years.

You may know the best technique for your child, but there's a 100% chance that I'm not going to give birth to your child. I'll try a bunch of things out with my baby (just like you did with yours) to try and figure out what works best for us. If that doesn't work out, I'll call you when I'm sleep deprived and stressed out and you can save the day by showing me your never-fail burping/sleeping/latching technique.

I'm Nosy

"Was this a planned pregnancy?"
"Are you having a lot of changes in your breasts?"

Doctor patient confidentiality exists for a reason. Just because you're curious about something, doesn't mean you have a right to know. If I don't volunteer the information on my own, chances are I don't want you to know. Don't put me in the awkward position of (nicely) telling you "none of your business." You're embarrassing us both.

True story:
My friend's boss's wife asked her what sexual position she was in when she conceived her baby.


I've had these thoughts in my head for a long time, and it feels very cathartic to write them out. But I also wanted to write about it because there are a lot of other posts floating around in my head about pregnancy, childbirth and parenting but before I write about them I want to make it clear from the outset that just because I made a different decision from you doesn't mean I'm judging you. While any decision made is a repudiation of all the decisions not made, decisions are not made in a vacuum. The choices my husband and I make reflect our circumstances and priorities, just as I'm sure the choices your family make reflect your circumstances and priorities. To quote the president, "I think we can disagree without being disagreeable."


  1. This is brilliant. I've heard similar things from my friends who've gone through pregnancy. Everyone knows a few people who love to give unsolicited advice about everything and you just deal with them because it's "them." What really amuses me is when everyone else who usually keeps things to themselves suddenly starts chiming in during a pregnancy.

    And this is from someone who's never been pregnant! So if I find this rude and annoying, I can't imagine how you feel.

  2. SO TRUE. Everyone is different and you shouldn't be subjected to any of that crap. Make the decisions that are best for you and yours and tell everybody else to butt out!

    And why in the world would that boss' wife ask something like that?! So inappropriate!

  3. I think you are tapping into something most (all?) pregnant women can relate to. I wonder why people feel so insecure that they have to have you match them in their decisions. Wacko, on their part.

  4. PREACH IT! There is something about pregnancy and motherhood that people must think is exempt from basic manners. I have no idea why.
    True story, when she found out that I was pregnant with my second daughter nine months after the birth of my first, a co-worker exclaimed, "You two must not EVER leave the bedroom!"
    Another said "Oh no! Your oldest will never get the chance to be a BABY!"
    Seriously? How could it possibly be okay to say things like that?!

  5. Hi, thanks for commenting on my blog. I definately relate to this post. The opinions keep coming even once you've had the child too and it's maddening. I've been told that cloth diapers cause diseases, that my baby still doesn't have teeth because of what I'm feeding him, and countless other gems. It makes me crazy but as long as you know what's right for you and your family all you can do us shut the voices out.

  6. What a great and thoughtful post! I love how you say each of these makes me sad, too, to think of all the encouragement that moms could give one another, but choose to say unkind or unnecessary things instead. I hope that things go just as you plan! And you can totally do it without drugs! If I can, anyone can. ;) I'll keep my mouth shut from now on.

    (I was blog hopping, and happened upon yours. I really liked this post, and so I had to say something. Ironic, considering your topic. haha)

  7. I never realized how different each child really was until my 2nd was born. My 2 daughters have very little in common in terms of infant behavior.


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